Lebanon

The legacy of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1989), three consecutive wars in 1993, 1996 and 2006, the ongoing crisis in Syria and the dramatic situation of the Syrian refugees continue to shape the political discourse as well as day-to-day life at community level in Lebanon. The forumZFD has been working in the country since 2009. Seven peace experts develop projects in the area of dealing with the past and capacity building. The forumZFD also facilitates the dialogue between Lebanese host communities and Syrian refugees, thus supporting their integration and reducing the likelihood of violent outbreaks of conflict.
Our conflict analysis

Lebanon is characterized by its religious and confessional diversity. The memories of the Lebanese Civil War are ever-present and affect Lebanon’s political landscape as well as everyday life. However, the ways in which the war is remembered differ between confessional and political groups. There is no common narrative, a fact readily exploited by the various political actors. Confessional belonging determines the degree of political participation and influence. A quota system, which does not reflect the demographic reality of Lebanon, regulates the representation of the different confessional groups in Parliament. Political conflicts occur along denominational lines and are further exacerbated due to the influence of rivaling foreign powers and religious leaders. In an environment shaped by deep-rooted anxiety and ample prejudices against “the other”, confessional lines are solidified through mutual distrust and discrimination. The influx of Syrian refugees, which has caused Lebanon’s total population to increase by 25%, poses new challenges to the social fabric of many communities. However, in the face of a weak Lebanese state, civil society organizations play a vital and important role. The education sector, charity organizations as well as religious communities have great potential to contribute to positive social change. At the same time, they are also in the position to escalate conflicts.

Our projects

Conflict mitigation and integration of refugees

The war in Syria has been going on for over four years now. More than 100,000 people have lost their lives. 2.5 million Syrians have fled the country. Most refugees escaped to neighboring countries, approximately 1.5 million Syrians to Lebanon. Western Beqaa, close to the border of Syria, is one of the poorest regions of Lebanon, yet many communities have granted refuge to a vast number of Syrians. But their hospitality also has a downside: The vast numbers of refugees overburdens the local infrastructure. The overall economic situation is worsening. Those Syrians, who do not have relatives or friends in Lebanon, face a dire humanitarian situation. They often work illegally and accept poor salaries simply in order to survive. Members of the host communities can no longer compete with the cheap labor provided by Syrians, a fact giving rise to hostility towards refugee communities, who are blamed for the increasing poverty in the region. Moreover, as Syrian communities receive humanitarian aid, Lebanese host communities openly display envy and dissatisfaction. The project “Future Together Now” responds to the potential for conflict caused by the refugee crisis in Lebanon. The project aims to improve the understanding for host communities and local authorities and facilitate a conflict-sensitive management of the refugee crisis. By establishing structures for dialogue and introducing methods of non-violent conflict transformation (non-violent communication, fostering dialogue and understanding through facilitated meetings) both host and refugee communities are empowered. Civil society representatives, schools and municipalities are partners in the implementation of this project. ForumZFD supports communities in their efforts to reduce the potential for conflicts that may occur between the Lebanese population and Syrian refugees and to facilitate the integration of Syrian refugees.

Head of Project: Christina Hering

Dealing with the past

The Taif Agreement of 1989 provided "the basis for the ending of the civil war and the return to political normalcy in Lebanon". However, old conflicts continued to smolder and new ones erupted. Processes of dealing with the past which incorporate the diverse perspectives of all Lebanese population groups remain controversial. Inclusive ways of dealing with the past would, however, enable people to relate to each other’s fears, anxieties and suffering. The project “Documenting and Popularizing Experiences of Nonviolent Activism in Lebanon” is designed to draw attention to a neglected aspect of Lebanese history through video documentations and the creation of a data base that is widely accessible by the public. The implementation of training and sensitization exercises for all confessional communities raises awareness concerning the potential of civil society to engage in non-violent conflict transformation in Lebanon.

Partner: Permanent Peace Movement (www.ppm-lebanon.org), Imam Sadr Foundation (www.imamsadrfoundation.org), Umam Documentation and Research (www.umam-dr.org)
Project Manager: Nina Strumpf

Schools also play a vital role in overcoming societal schisms. Part of the project “Tell me – I am listening!” has been the publication of a manual for teachers working in the field of dealing with the past. A documentary about the diverse narratives describing the Lebanese Civil War complements the manual. The teaching material is designed to encourage critical thinking and reflection on individual perceptions of history at school level. ForumZFD also facilitates penal discussions with civil society representatives.

Partner: Lebanese Center for Civic Education (www.lccelebanon.org), A Step Away (www.astepaway.org)
Project Manager: Nina Strumpf

Capacity building for civil society activists

There are many NGOs active in Lebanon. A needs assessment conducted by forumZFD and GIZ has shown that most NGOs request training relevant to organizational development and project management. Methodological knowledge of non-violent conflict transformation is sparse, especially when it comes to NGOs operating outside of the capital Beirut. The project “Let’s get Trained” supports NGOs from all regions during the implementation of their projects. Training in non-violent conflict transformation builds the capacity of our partner organizations to address conflict in a constructive and peaceful way.

Partner: DROPS Community Progress (www.drops.ch), Hayya Bina ("www.hayyabina.org/en), Initiatives of Change Lebanon (www.iofc.org/history/Lebanon), Naba`a Developmental Action without Borders (nabaa-lb.org), USPEaK, Youth for Development
Project Manager: Naji Saiid

Head of Programme: Bernhard Hillenkamp